A defiant RCMP Commissioner William Elliott has come out swinging against allegations he ordered the removal of the head of the Canadian Firearms Program to appease the Conservative government.
In an interview with CBC News on Friday from Edmonton, the commissioner said he was frustrated with the "reporting of pure fiction" about the replacement of Chief Supt. Marty Cheliak as director-general of the firearms program.
The RCMP is responsible for administering the CFP, which includes the federal long-gun registry that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government is trying to scrap.
Opposition MPs have suggested Harper interfered with the staffing to silence a vocal supporter of the long-gun registry. The prime minister, and now Elliott, vociferously deny the charge.
"There is not one iota of truth in that," Elliott said. "The media and others just made this up. It's not true, it's not true, it's not true."
Before his quiet removal, Cheliak was set to unveil a major report before the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police at its annual general meeting in Edmonton and receive a president's award for his work on the long-gun registry.
But the RCMP announced on Wednesday that Cheliak "does not currently meet the linguistic requirements" of the position he was given nine months ago and would be on leave before heading to French-language training.
Elliott, who was in Edmonton for meetings of the Criminal Intelligence Service Canada, insisted Cheliak's language training was a requirement of the job, and that the Mounties have found an "excellent" replacement to run the firearms program in Chief Supt. Pierre Perron.
He also praised Cheliak for doing a "great job" running the program.
"Nothing has changed except a regular change in personnel," the commissioner said. "There is absolutely, positively nothing to the suggestion that there was any political role or interference with respect to this."
'No cause' to resign
The prime minister has said Cheliak's removal was an internal RCMP personnel matter, while opposition MPs claim his ouster fits the Conservative government's "pattern" of dealing with dissent.
The commissioner also said he has not seen former CSIS director Reid Morden's workplace review of the Mounties that was ordered after several top RCMP officers came forward with allegations that Elliott was verbally abusive and disrespectful to his subordinates.
He added that as far as he understands, Morden's report is still in production.
Elliott said that while it is "fairly self-evident" that a group of Mounties is trying to push him out his job, he has "no cause" to resign.
"There's an important job to do, and I am committed to continue to do it, and we'll see what happens after the report," he said. "My decisions and others' decisions will be better informed."
Long-gun registry 'useful'
During a news conference earlier in the day, Elliott said facts demonstrate that the federal long-gun registry has been "useful," but he doesn't believe it's appropriate for the Mounties to take a position on the registry's future.
Elliott said the Mounties are put in a "unique position" by administering the Canadian Firearms Program, which includes the long-gun registry the Conservative government is trying to scrap.
He also said the use of the registry is increasing, but added politicians set the parameters of the firearms program.
"But decisions of weighing costs and benefits is up to Parliament," Elliott said.
"We will stick to facts and not to advocacy, and we will leave it to others to advocate positions if they believe that's appropriate for them."
The Conservatives have denounced the long-gun registry, which was brought in by the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien in 2002, as wasteful and ineffective.
Police chiefs and police organizations across Canada have voiced their support for the beleaguered registry, saying it is a valuable tool in assisting officers in doing their job.
The registry's defenders maintain that despite the program's significant initial setup costs, it now costs taxpayers just $4 million a year.